Dear Charlene: “What is Self-Care?”
Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
I suffer from depression and anxiety, and everything going on in the news right now is only making it worse. I’ve seen you tweet about “self-care” before. Will you please explain what that means?
It would be my pleasure.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now. I can’t seem to read the news or look at social media without my anxiety going through the roof. As a very sensitive person, it’s hard not to take things on. I feel you.
As important as it is to be aware of what’s going on and involved in dialogue about it, it’s just as important to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself. And that means it’s crucial that you find a balance.
Self-care entails anything that is done for the purpose of taking care of yourself. When I was first introduced to self-care, it was difficult for me to even understand the concept. Why would I do nice things for myself when I hated myself? And doesn’t society tell us that the most honorable thing to do is to sacrifice yourself tirelessly for others? Wouldn’t it just be selfish to think of myself?
But soon I became open to the fact that I was the only person responsible for taking care of myself. And if I wasn’t taking care of myself, I couldn’t show up to life, work, experiences, challenges, fun, or relationships as my best self—doing a disservice not only to myself, but also to everyone else.
If I wasn’t taking care of myself, I couldn’t show up to life, work, experiences, challenges, fun, or relationships as my best self—doing a disservice not only to myself, but also to everyone else.
After I finally started taking care of myself—even though it was challenging and felt extremely uncomfortable at first—I was surprised to see and feel how much better life was this way. It was so much easier to enjoy life, rather than suffer through it. I was able to see how exhausting it actually was to hate myself, and there was no longer any reason for me to be so mean to myself.
Here are some of my basic beginner tips for self-care. Explore, experiment, and find what feels good to YOU. Remember, it’s all about feeling good.
– Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up? Do you check the news, scroll through Twitter, or peek at what your weird aunt has to say on Facebook? Commit to giving yourself some time in the morning before you light any screens up. Allow for your mind to start the day with something kind: get yourself ready first, eat some breakfast, write in a journal, say something you’re thankful for out loud.
– If you’re up for trying it, this is a really good time to start meditating. Set a timer, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Even if you start out with only one minute every day, you will still feel the immense benefits of this ancient practice. And there are so many different ways to meditate, and not all of them involve sitting still. Do some research and explore what interests you. I resisted meditation when everyone was suggesting it to me. But when I finally gave in, it changed my life. I can no longer go a day without twenty minutes because it truly keeps me sane.
– Avoid isolation. I know it’s so hard, especially when your bed is so comfy, Netflix is so easy, and there are so many snacks to eat. I still struggle with calling my friends and putting myself out there. But you will find that reaching out to people regularly will completely change your life. Schedule some proper time with a close friend and get out of the house. Make a phone call. Yeah, I said it. Roll your eyes all you want, but human connection is important. It’s just as important as food and air. Why deprive yourself of a basic need? If your friend can’t stand the thought of answering your phone call and would rather text, find another friend. It’s important to your health.
– Exercise. Endorphins can do wonders for anxiety. Even going on a walk and getting some sunshine and fresh air can boost your mood immediately. I know it’s hard to get going at first, but I promise you will thank yourself after. Explore different physical activities; there are so many to try. Yes, a dance party in your kitchen does count.
– Get back to the kid in you. It’s so important to play and have fun. What are some things you loved to do when you were a kid? Color with crayons, go down a slide, ride a merry-go-round, eat your favorite childhood cereal, watch your favorite cartoon, buy a stuffed animal, do a cartwheel. Trust me with this one, it’s a good one.
– Really—and I mean really—treat yourself once in awhile. Do anything that makes you feel special. This could be anything. Get a mani pedi. Buy yourself flowers. Light a candle. Eat an ice cream cone. Go see a movie matinee. Get a massage. Go to that art exhibit you’ve always wanted to see. Buy a new house plant. Take a bubble bath. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy the hell out of it.
– And finally, are your basic needs being met? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you bathing regularly? Do you have socks and underwear that don’t have holes in them? Have you been to the dentist? I may sound like a nagging mother, but self-care is pretty much like being your own mother and father. Be the loving and supportive self-parent that you need right now, even as an adult!
If you’re new to self-care, it will feel weird when you start to practice it. But remember, it is a practice. Stick with it, and be gentle, patient, and kind with yourself and whatever it may look like on any given day. That means if it doesn’t look perfect, or you don’t feel the way you want to, don’t judge it, and keep being kind to yourself anyway. You’re practicing. Allow yourself to be a beginner.
You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself. Changing the world starts with you. A better life awaits you, as soon as you’re ready for it. FL